Anything Goes continues at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 7 February and then tours until 10 October 2015.
Star rating: 5 stars *****
The good ship Anything Goes has sailed full steam ahead out of Sheffield, where Daniel Evans’ Crucible feelgood production launched to general euphoria in December, docking first in Wimbledon before continuing its eight-month UK cruise – Ireland too as it’s bound for Dublin in August – before finally dropping anchor in Bristol in early October.
That’s 32 towns and cities in eight exhausting months, and if energy and effervescence are still going at a rate of knots to the end, it will be close to a miracle as this divinely dotty show sets off at high speed and never lets up.
Let’s hope it’s not ‘finally’ because if ever a show deserves a West End berth, it is this revival of Cole Porter’s loveable, daft-as-a-brush musical comedy, first seen on Broadway in 1934 but here presented in its 1987 reincarnation with some song changes from the original and book revision by John Weidman and Timothy Crouse.
The Sheffield production has already been accorded an enthusiastic thumbs-up for Musical Theatre Review (see Peter Spencer’s verdict) so there is no need to go through the wildly improbable storyline again as the cast and creatives, certainly the ones that count, have been booked en bloc to convey Evans’ Christmas offering to musical theatre lovers at large.
What makes it so de-lovely? Well, for a start Porter’s timelessly elegant songs – ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’, ‘You’re the Top’, ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’ and ‘Easy to Love’ aren’t too shabby, are they? And then there’s the title song, performed as a fast-and-furious Act I tap-dancing finale that alone is worth the price of admission.
Then there’s the dancing, stunning and drilled to perfection in Alistair David’s highly creative choreography and Nigel Lilley’s arrangements. And the humour. It’s killingly, side-splittingly, achingly funny – and the actors play it for all it is worth.
The Guardian says that it’s not quite as funny as it thinks it is. But it’s funnier, particularly Stephen Matthews as the terribly English toff – a typical PG Wodehouse creation (for it was he who collaborated on the Broadway original). His flailing ‘The Gypsy in Me’, complete with socks and suspenders, is a wicked comic creation and Hugh Sachs as the hopelessly ineffective ‘Public Enemy No. 13’ and Alex Young as the promiscuous Erma from whom no sailor is safe are not far behind in providing belly-laughs.
Young, one of the best winners of the prestigious Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year competition in 2010, has a superb feel for comedy and although she gets only one big number to herself, ‘Buddie, Beware’, she absolutely nails it.
But it is the triple threat brilliance of Debbie Kurup that holds the show together. Olivier-nominated for her show-stealing supporting role as the star’s sister in The Bodyguard, she fully merits elevation to lead status as the glamorous Reno Sweeney.
The ever-dependable Matt Rawle shows plenty of style as male lead Billy Crocker, while the older-generation romance between the hilariously short-sighted Simon Rouse and Jane Wymark (a familiar face from TV’s Midsomer Murders) is a sweet sidebar to the general mayhem.
When you’ve got the wittiest lyricist of them all, the great CP, batting for you, it’s hard to go wrong and under Evans’ sure-footed guidance, this revival is a total triumph. It’s mad, mad, mad but it works, works, works.
The original Sheffield review was written before Musical Theatre Review’s star ratings were introduced last month and it gives me the greatest pleasure to give this blissful evening my first five-star seal. Don’t you DARE miss it!